Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Maduro on the balcony of the Miraflores Palace on the day Guaidó declared himself president. Photo: Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images

The Trump administration and the Venezuela opposition believed — insisted, in fact — that 2019 would be the year President Nicolás Maduro would fall.

The big picture: For a time it seemed Venezuela would be the international story of the year — an unfathomable economic collapse, a refugee crisis fast becoming the world’s gravest, and an international drive for regime change involving threats of military force.

How we got here:

  • May 20, 2018: Venezuela’s presidential election, won by Maduro, is widely condemned as a sham.
  • Jan 23, 2019: National Assembly President Juan Guaidó declares himself interim president and is quickly recognized by the U.S. and dozens of other countries.
  • April 30: Weeks of efforts to oust Maduro culminate in a dramatic but ultimately failed uprising, led by Guaidó and vocally supported by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and other top leaders.

Between the lines: Maduro has never again looked as vulnerable as he did that day, but U.S. officials continued to declare his ouster “inevitable.”

  • Elliot Abrams, President Trump’s Venezuela envoy, said in July that Maduro would “absolutely” fall by year’s end.
  • “The administration over-promised, and I think it over-believed,” says Fernando Cutz, who served as South America director on the White House National Security Council earlier in the Trump administration.
  • “They tried a high-risk, high-reward approach,” he says, pairing an embargo with bellicose rhetoric. “They really believed the actions they were taking were going to lead to regime change in Caracas, and they could have, to be honest.”
  • Now, Cutz says, “there has been an indisputable and noticeable decline in attention being paid to Venezuela,” in large part because Trump — who he says showed great personal interest in Venezuela, frequently raising it unprompted — realized “this won’t be an easy win for his foreign policy.”

The flipside: The Venezuelan opposition has begun to fray and was recently hit by a corruption scandal. Guaidó himself — once portrayed in almost messianic terms — is becoming less popular and drawing ever-smaller crowds.

  • “The people are tired of protesting and not obtaining what they ask for,” Guaidó admitted to the Washington Post.
  • His supporters are losing hope, and many have joined the flood of refugees leaving the country.

“Maduro has an incredible escape valve that he’s figured out, which is to allow everyone who doesn’t like him to flee. That is a win-win for him: Not only do you get the crowds down, but that’s less people you have to worry about not having food and medicine,” Cutz says.

  • “You keep the supporters at home, you keep the ones benefiting from the corrupt regime at home, and everyone else, you know, that’s now Colombia’s problem, and Peru’s problem, and Argentina’s problem and Chile’s problem."
  • “Particularly Colombia, which has now done more for refugees than any other country in the world recently.”

Behind the scenes: Over lunch at his stately Washington residence, Ambassador Francisco Santos told reporters Wednesday that Colombia is struggling to cope.

  • More than 5,000 Venezuelans migrate across the border every day, he said, while another 40,000 cross to get health care or go to school (Colombia grants full access to those services) and then return.
  • “We have more than 1.7 million refugees, that’s the official number and I think it’s under-reported. Bogota has 375,000 — that’s like the size of New Orleans."
  • Colombia is desperate for help from the U.S. and others, but is not considering changing its "open door" approach, he said.

Still, Santos rejected the suggestion the U.S. should reconsider a sanctions-first strategy that has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. "We need to keep the pressure on," he said.

  • Asked by Axios about a potential leadership change in Venezuela's National Assembly — Guaidó is up for re-election next month — he said Colombia stands firmly behind Guaidó but will recognize whomever leads the assembly as the country's legitimate leader.
  • Given allegations of bribery by the Maduro regime, what if Guaidó loses under questionable circumstances? "We don't even want to think about that," he said.

The bottom line: Santos acknowledged that change in Venezuela had not come as fast as many hoped.

"We hope that the that 2020 will be the year."

Go deeper: South America's uprisings are about more than politics

Go deeper

India sets new COVID world record as oxygen demand jumps seven-fold

COVID-19 patients being treated with free oxygen at a makeshift clinic in Indirapuram, Uttar Pradesh, India. Photo: Rebecca Conway/Getty Images

India has seen demand for oxygen jump "seven-fold" as the country set a new world record for daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday, per AP.

By the numbers: India's health ministry reported 412,262 new infections, taking the official tally past 21 million, and 3,980 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours. The official death toll now stands at 230,168. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher.

2 hours ago - World

U.K. sends patrol ships to British island amid fishing dispute with France

The HMS Tamar, one of the two ships deployed to Jersey. Photo: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it has deployed two Royal Navy patrol vessels to the island of Jersey "as a precautionary measure," as tensions over fishing rights escalate with France.

Why it matters: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement the government took the action to protect Jersey against threats of "a blockade" of French fishing boats at the island, which is off the coast of northwest France.

Social media's "in-kind contribution to Biden"

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Facebook's continued suspension of Donald Trump's account extends the silencing of Joe Biden's most potent critic — and the current president's control over the national political narrative into his second 100 days.

Why it matters: Biden has been able to successfully focus on COVID-19 relief, his infrastructure plan and fielding his new administration, in part, because Trump hasn't been able to shake his social media muzzle and bray about the migration crisis or any White House misstep.